2018-2019 Lecture Series


2018-2019 CMRS Lecture Series Poster.jpg


Misty Schieberle (Kansas): "Rethinking Gender and Language in Stephen Scrope's Epistle of Othea" (MRGSA Lecture)

Misty Schieberle

Date: Sept. 28

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Location: 18th Avenue Library, Room 090

Abstract: For decades the scholarly consensus about Stephen Scrope’s translation of Christine de Pizan’s Epistre Othea has asserted that it is a precise translation of her work but that he must have held some antifeminist positions because he denies Christine recognition as author, and he inexplicably genders as masculine multiple women from classical mythology. Yet a thorough examination of all three manuscripts and the closest extant manuscript to Scrope’s source challenges these views. Even though these copies are affected by scribal variants, as a whole, these manuscripts provide a fuller picture of Scrope’s process as translator and his difficulties grappling with the complexity not only of Christine’s often-unexpected perspectives but also of her language itself and even some of the classical myths that structure her work. When Scrope’s process is reconstructed, the evidence reveals him to be, at worst, passively antifeminist and, at best, an imprecise and uninformed translator. At its core, this analysis provides a methodology for examining manuscript traditions and reevaluating what previous scholars have meant when they term Scrope’s Epistle a “good” translation.

Bio: Misty Schieberle specializes in 14th- and 15th-century English literature, especially Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate; gender and political literature; Christine de Pizan and medieval French literature in England; and manuscript studies. Her current research explores gender, fortune and fate, and manuscript studies in works by Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, and Christine de Pizan that were popular in late medieval England. Her first monograph – Feminized Counsel and the Literature of Advice in England, 1350-1500 – explores Middle English political literature that represents women as wise, beneficial counselors to kings. She is currently working on a critical edition of medieval English translations of Christine de Pizan's Epistre Othea for the Middle English Texts Series and related studies of the diverse manuscript history of the Othea in French and English.



Earle Havens (Johns Hopkins): CMRS Symposium, "Books and Their Use[r]s," Keynote Address -- "Using Montaigne: Lord William Howard’s Reading Machine"

Earle Havens

Date: Oct. 19-20

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: Thompson Library, Room 202

Abstract: Between c. 1614-18, the antiquary, loyal Catholic aristocrat, and youngest son of the executed 4th duke of Norfolk, Lord William Howard, read through his folio copy of John Florio’s monumental English translation of Montaigne’s Essays (1613). He did so with a pen in hand, preserving across most of its amply margined pages an unprecedented trove of some 900 separate manuscript notes. These marginalia invoke a rich reading life clearly amplified by the known contents of Lord William’s great antiquarian library of hundreds of medieval and Renaissance books, which he had built carefully over many decades at Naworth Castle in provincial Cumberland. These annotations reveal myriad ways in which Lord William “used” the Essays as a peculiar touchstone for a host of parallel personal interests and coincidental affinities that he shared with Montaigne himself. Both were humanists, both avid collectors of books and the literary commonplaces and anecdotes they contained, and both embattled Catholics living, reading, and writing within proximity to strong libraries under conditions of relative rustication. Much like Montaigne, Lord William was also quite free with his personal opinions and recollections, psychological speculations, and eccentric theories about human behavior—many of them expressed in the first person. Lord William systematically annotated, indexed, and cross-referenced his Montaigne, very much “using” the material text as a kind of “reading machine” suited to the longer-term exposition and memorialization of his deeply personal interpretive enterprise sustained over many years.

Bio: Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sheridan Libraries, Earle Havens' scholarship and teaching focus on the history of the book and the material culture of texts from classical antiquity to the Renaissance. His current book projects include a study of 16th-century illicit printing, book smuggling, and scribal publication in the Catholic underground in Elizabethan England; a volume of essays on early modern literary forgery (with Walter Stephens, Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, JHU) through the JHU Press (2018); and a critical edition of the lives of the Roman Catholic Elizabethan Earl and Countess of Arundel, with Elizabeth Patton (Humanities Institute, JHU) and Susannah Monta (Department of English, University of Notre Dame) through the Toronto/PIMS series (projected 2019). He also serves as editor of a new monograph series with Ann Blair (History Department, Harvard University) and Anthony Grafton (History Department, Princeton University) called “Information Cultures” for the JHU Press, addressing the cultures, technologies, organization, and material transfer of historical information from antiquity to the digital age.



Nancy Caciola (UC San Diego): "The Holy Sprit in the Form of a Woman: Apocalypse, Universal Salvation, and a Mysterious Fresco of the Thirteenth Century"

Nancy Caciola

Date: Nov. 9

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: 18th Avenue Library, Room 090

Abstract: In 1300 an inquisitorial inquiry was held in the city of Milan. The target was a group of individuals united in devotion to a woman who had died nearly two decades earlier. Her name was Guglielma, and many had become convinced that she was the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. They believed that Guglielma would resurrect on the feast of Pentecost in 1300; that she would initiate a new age of history and set a woman upon the papal throne; and that through her all human beings would be redeemed, including Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and heretics. My paper examines the group’s theology–particularly the notion of universal salvation–through the detailed analysis of a little-known sinopia (an under-sketch for a fresco) depicting a woman as part of a Trinity. I discovered this artwork in a suburban Milanese abbey and am the first to connect its content to the Guglielmite group.

Bio: Nancy Caciola is broadly interested in the religious and social construction of identities in the later Middle Ages as well as the boundary between life and death in medieval thought, and the varieties of ways of imagining return from the dead. Her latest book is Afterlives: The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages (Cornell UP).



Paul Strohm (Columbia): "'This Auntient Poet': Chaucer and the Streams of Parnassus"

Paul Strohm

Date: Nov. 30

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: 18th Avenue Library, Room 090

Abstract: The Elizabethan poets wanted the benefits of a literary tradition, with Geoffrey Chaucer as its progenitor, but also chafed at its restrictions.  They honored him as the father of English poetry, but sniped at his accomplishments, declared him over the hill, and even, at worst, derided him as vulgarian and clown.  This lecture will acknowledge the full spectrum of such minimizations, but will then turn to a counter-tradition of more wholehearted acceptance, as exemplified by Robert Green’s 1592 Vision.  In this seldom-noticed work, Greene stages a spirited debate between Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower about the means and proper objectives of poetry.  Chaucer takes the fall and loses the debate, but receives his most whole-hearted Elizabethan reading along the way.

Bio: Most recently J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, Paul Strohm joined the Columbia faculty in fall 2003. His area of principal interest is medieval literature with a recent emphasis on transitions from 'medieval' to 'early modern.' His teaching and research have concerned the 'affiliated text,' with special attention to textuality and history and to genre and social change. Publications include: Social Chaucer (Harvard, 1989, 1994); Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton, 1992); England's Empty Throne: Usurpation and Textual Legitimation, 1399-1422 (Yale UK, 1998); Theory and the Premodern Text (Minnesota, 2000); Politique: Languages of Statecraft Between Chaucer and Shakespeare (Notre Dame, 2005). He has previously been departmental Chair and President of the Faculty Council at Indiana University, has held various national offices and posts with the AAUP (was recently appointed to a three year term on the National AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure), and in 2001-3 was Chair of the English Faculty at the University of Oxford.



**Spring 2019**


Chris Woodyard: "The Many Roads to Fairyland"

Popular Culture and the Deep Past Keynote and Utley Lecture

Chris Woodyard


Date: Feb. 22

Time: 6:30

Location: 180 Hagerty Hall

Abstract: Just as the Fairy Queen showed Thomas of Erceldoune three roads, there are many highways and byways in fairylore. Our keynote address will begin with a case of fairy abduction, followed by a brief history of the transformation of early malevolent and dangerous fairies to the present-day twinkling guardians of nature as seen in popular culture, including tales directed at children. 

The striking parallels between the fairies of the Medieval period as described in poetry, ballads, and exempla and the fairies of the 19th century will be examined.  Themes addressed will include: the recurring conflation or confusion between the Queen of Heaven and the Queen of Fairyland; archaic fairy fashions; the fairy blast; and the relationship between fairies and the dead. 

As the corpse road is one of the lesser-known roads to Fairyland, we find ghostlore and fairylore overlapping in reports of White Ladies, Banshees, spook-lights, and Boggarts. The address will conclude with thoughts on the renewed interest in fairies in the 21st century, including the revival of the Fairy Investigation Society and its new Fairy Census, fairy cosplay, and Faerie as a spiritual path. 



I was doomed to be a writer. I wrote (well, dictated) my first book in first grade. It was about a witch and I’ve been writing about the supernatural ever since.

My formal education includes a degree in Medieval & Renaissance Studies. My ongoing studies are eclectic: dressed religious images, folklore, jewelry, costume history, doll houses and miniatures, Hispanic Colonial art, nuns (particularly cloistered orders).

I’ve done a fair number of jobs in my life: I’ve been a housecleaner (discovering a friendly neighborhood counterfeiter with a printing press in the basement), a church organist (accompanied by a ghost who sometimes sits in the dark church, listening to me practice), a technical editor and writer of children’s textbooks (yes, I wrote story problems!—the Horror….), and owner of a vintage clothing store (haunted by a ghostly man who pushed my assistant down the stairs.) It’s a full life….

I’ve written a series of books on the ghosts and ghostlore of Ohio: The Haunted Ohio series. These consist of Haunted Ohio, volumes 1 through 5 (I-V) as well as Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio and Spooky Ohio: 13 Traditional Tales for younger readers and storytelling. Haunted Ohio volumes I-V are available both in paperback and e-book for Kindle. Ghost Hunter’s Guide and Spooky Ohio are available in paperback.  The first of my newest series, The Ghosts of the Past, is The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales, a scrapebook of Victorian hauntings and horrors. The second in the series, The Headless Horror: More Haunting Ohio Tales was published in January 2013, tells of ghosts, as well as fortean wonders and mysteries.  The third, which expanded coverage to the US, is titled The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past.  My latest book is The Victorian Book of the Dead, a macabre collection of the morbid and the mournful from the Victorian era. Ghosts, petrified corpses, undertaker interviews, and tales from the crypts.

I’ve also published a collection of short stories, A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales, as an e-book for Kindle. In these neo-Edwardian tales you’ll meet a sentimental succubus, a ghostly seamstress with a lethal reputation, a vindictive aunt demanding respect from beyond the grave, and a homicidal Edwardian housekeeper. Think Downton Abbey meets Dexter.

I grew up reading writers like Saki, Wodehouse, and Dickens and classical ghost stories by authors like M.R. James and E.F. Benson. I like subtle ghost stories and stories with details about sewing and costume history (see “Stitches” and “Crape”, in A Spot of Bother), because of my fascination with vintage clothing. “Crape”, for example, is a story about Victorian mourning conventions gone horribly wrong.

I’ve got a number of projects in the works including more books in the Ghosts of the Past series, the Killer Budgie blog, and a new fictional collection: Suction: Tales of Domestic Horror. The title story is about a haunted vacuum cleaner, reflecting my horror of housework.

I’m always happy to hear from my readers. The quickest way to reach me is to visit my Facebook page: Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard.  And please visit my Killer Budgie Blog at http://www.hauntedohiobooks.com/the-blog-of-chris-woodyard/

Thanks for reading my books and happy hauntings!


Dot Porter (Penn): "Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis: A Look Back and a Look Forward"

Dot Porter

Date: March 22

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: 18th Avenue Library, Room 090

Abstract: March 2019 marks the last month of the three-year Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, which aims to digitize over 475 codices and several hundred leaves and fragments from fifteen libraries in and around Philadelphia, and make them available online in the Public Domain. Given this milestone my lecture for the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will focus on the past, present, and future of the project. I will provide an overview of the project, focusing on the labor involved in the digitization and cataloging and the methods for access and various interfaces developed for and used by the project, and introducing some of the manuscripts (virtually) that make Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis so special. The purpose of the lecture is not only to bring attention to the project, but to illustrate the scholarly and popular work made possible by treating digitized medieval manuscripts as open data.

Bio: As Curator of Digital Research Services in the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, Dot Porter participates in a wide-ranging digital humanities research and development team within the context of a special collections department. Dot's projects focus on the digitization and visualization of medieval manuscripts. Dot holds an MA in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University, and an MS Library Science from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has worked on a variety of digital humanities projects over a decade-long career, focusing on materials as diverse as ancient texts and Russian religious folklore, providing both technical support and scholarly expertise. From 2010 until March 2013, she was the Associate Director for Digital Library Content and Services at the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, where she led in planning and implementing new services to support librarians and faculty in the creation of digital projects. She has also worked for the Digital Humanities Observatory at the Royal Irish Academy, and the Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities at the University of Kentucky.



Emily Thornbury (Yale): "Surface, Depth, and Interpretation in Beowulf"

Emily Thornbury

Date: April 12

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: 18th Avenue Library, Room 090

Abstract: In Beowulf we find a series of conceptual metaphors for interpretation: hunting; diving; buried treasure. A closer look, however, reveals a fundamental conflict between the views expressed by these metaphors, a conflict centered on the presence or absence of a surface-depth dichotomy. Within the text, we can see the Beowulf-poet wrestling with a Classically-derived worldview that privileges the hidden and associates the surface with deception. Ultimately the poet seems to have found himself unable either to accept this new metaphor, or, having understood it, to return to earlier concepts that presumed the surface acted as a sure guide to truth—a philosophical dilemma that contributes to the apocalyptic bleakness of the poem’s end. In Beowulf’s conflict, then, we can learn a great deal about the alterity of Anglo-Saxon thought, and about the real ambivalence that sometimes accompanied the importation of Mediterranean philosophy.

Bio: I've worked extensively on the role of poets and poetry in Anglo-Saxon England; my monograph on the topic, Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England, was published by Cambridge University Press in early 2014. New projects include work on ornament and aesthetics in early medieval England.